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Milwaukee, responsibly building community engagement through beer gardens. (PHOTO: Royal Brevväxling)

Building community, Milwaukee-style

Every Milwaukeean has a Lake Michigan story and for the next seven days OnMilwaukee will share as many as possible during "MKE Lake Week," sponsored by the Harbor District. Love our lake? You're in the right place.

This news made me happy. Not only could this project help activate a dead zone near Downtown, it speaks directly to what beer gardens mean to Milwaukee: community building.

Community building. Milwaukee owns it. Or should. Or could. And truly once did.

Community simply means a feeling of fellowship with others, right? It's, as most definitions say, a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Milwaukee does this very well, and no matter how introverted one is, having a "sense of community" is truly important.

Now, how do we do this community building thing? Easy.

Milwaukee's been doing it for years. Beer gardens. Yes, beer gardens. They were built by the Miller family and other legacy beer families to hold large gatherings and, of course, to showcase their products. Thank you, Frederick Miller and Jacob Best.

Today, all over greater Milwaukee beer gardens are welcoming, fun, festive and – yes – family places. Development should be driven by demand, of course, but families and family activities should dictate more of what's built in cities. And, in Milwaukee, families gather and we drink. Go to Eastabrook Park on a Saturday or Sunday. Kids playing, teens playing and adults eating, drinking responsibly and talking. It's beautiful, and it's community building 101.

It's important to bring people together around attitudes, interests, and goals. It's also important to leverage our assets. So, the role water and beer play in this area is more vital than most think about regularly. Milwaukee's vibe and community flow with the lake and our past and present economies with beer. It is Lake Week, after all.

Milwaukee can own a lot things. Yes, we should jump on manufacturing 2.0, power through with more innovation around education and startups and lead in creativity and design.

We are community builders, though, at heart. And, we are a beer garden town. So, let's embrace it and use it to drive relationships, the future and more in greater Milwaukee.

Onward. Or, Prost!


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